An Introvert at a Funeral

Common funeral practices are sometimes a cruel joke played on introverts. Most of us accept that we live in an extravert's world. While the value of the introvert is gaining attention of late, society still holds the person with many friends and a gregarious personality as the model to mirror.

Funerals are no different from any other social construct. Long lines of mourners attend the successful wake. Giving eulogies for the deceased in a church with empty pews is just sad. Many traditions need a second graveside service followed by an open house at the home of the bereaved. People are everywhere. A friend recently said, "The only time my house is filled with people is when somebody in my family dies."

We all want and, in some ways, need people around during a time of death. It's comforting to know that others care. However, consider introverts. They are no different in that they need people around and they want people to show they care. They just don't need them around as much as the extravert does.

It's all about energy. Grief, sadness and depression are all emotional states that drain a person's energy. Once we get past the anger of losing someone, these feelings follow closely behind. During times of grief, we don't seek pleasure and we don't enjoy life. Our energy for such matters usually evaporates during mourning. The energy depletion is often intense and we sometimes hear phrases like, "I don't know how I'm going to go on with my life."

Funerals are to help the living come to grips with the death of a loved one. Healthy mourning allows people to pass through their exhausting sadness, to accept their loss and then to arrive at a "new normal". Energy gained from interacting with others helps the extravert during these times while social intercourse usually only exhausts the introvert's energy. So, when introverts lose someone, they not only have to deal with grief and sadness depleting their energy. They usually also have to run the gauntlet of social expectations which drains them rather than feeds them. It can become a double curse of energy loss.

Introverts often report others misunderstand them when they seek the restorative solitude that they need during these times. Some see the mourning introvert as rude and disrespectful for not being ever-present. Or others assess them to be worse off than they are. One person who identifies herself as introverted said her family became alarmed when she went off by herself for several hours during a time of family mourning and questioned her about suicidal thoughts. She had no such thoughts. She just needed some time alone.

Effective grief counseling is mostly about giving people permission to deal with death in the way that suits them best. For introverts, this does mean connecting with the people in their lives who care about them and the deceased loved one. However, it also means finding time alone to explore their loss and to gain energy, as they typically do, on their own. Most introverts will not want to isolate altogether.

It's less about getting away from others and more about being alone, however subtle that difference may be. People often describe a feeling of emptiness and a deep loneliness when the last mourner has left. However, the typical introvert will most likely feel gratitude for the mourners having come, but they will also feel relief that they are now gone.

So, whether you're an extravert or an introvert, when you face a loss, give yourself permission to do whatever it takes to get through the experience in your own way. And be generous enough to allow others to grieve in their fashion even if it doesn't feel quite right to you.

Have you had similar situations where others have not understood your introverted or extraverted behavior? Is it sometimes difficult to meet others' expectations because of a personality trait? Join us in the conversation. We'd love to hear from you.

2 weeks ago
Wow, I completely agree with this. When I first go to funerals, I’m always early so that I’m part of the few people there, along with time to mourn by myself. Thing is, I don’t let myself cry during funerals. Not a single tear slipped, is this common for me? I’m starring to think it is with the whole push my feelings aside, I’ve got no time for them idea. Anyway, this cleared up a bunch of stuff. Thanks!
1 month ago
I'm an INTP-A and this article cannot be more true. While other people can be comforting at such times, I feel as though people can also be intrusive in a matter that is so intensely personal.
5 months ago
INTP-A,just returned from my grandfather's funeral. Everyone is crying heavily, but I just can't feel anything. I was pretty close to him, but seeing him gone just can't make me feeling any sadness... My mother is a ISFP, and my father is a ESTP. They didn't blame me for being cold, but I can feel them saying that I should at least express some sadness. Maybe I am really a cold person...
1 year ago
Wow. This article read my mind, but I wish I did not know what is coming. Have you ever been in that situation that I like to call the in-between? Where everything is at peace like the calm before the storm, yet you know it is a terrible one coming. My grandmother is fading from my fingertips, moving on. In a way, she is already gone. I know that she would have been a long time ago if it weren't for the fact that there are unhealed rifts waiting and waiting to be closed chaining her down here. I am 100% introverted, and talking doesn't help much. Being only twelve, people take for granted that I am inexperienced, and don't think that even I know how I truly feel. What gets me out is art. I can write for ages, and that soothes me, just seeing my voice captured in time, telling me in the present that I need to remember to value my time spent making those cherishable memories with those I care so deeply for. I need to be able to have some kind of outlet that will remind me not to lose touch just because I have reached the next chapter, and so have they. When told just how heartless and rude I'm being, I will always remember to smile, and let go of the pain: if those who have died have gone through this before, then so can I. When it counts, they will know that I did not mean to seem that way. I am the way I am, and I find my peace a different way. Always know the love of our loved ones. -An INFJ-T
2 years ago
Great topic! I'm an INTP-A who was married to a funeral director for more than 20 years. I'm very familiar with the rituals and thought processes regarding funerals in our culture. While I understand on a logical level why some people feel the need to come together in their grief, it's an uncomfortable setting for me. It's exhausting and, for me, senseless. Several years ago, my grandmother passed away. At the time, she and the rest of the family were living several states away from me. I lived in the same area my grandmother was born and grew up in. Rather than fly back for the funeral, I chose to stay where I was and spend a day in the town she grew up in, visiting different places she had talked about and visiting the house she grew up in. It was my way of paying tribute to her. I shed a lot of tears that day but I also had an inner feeling of peace as I explored her childhood world. The responses I received were worded differently, but they all said the same thing: I was selfish and must not have ever cared about her. Some tried to put me on a guilt trip for not being there; I had an obligation. Some of them were just plain vicious. The only family member who told me they understood why I did what I did was my father who is also an introvert. And it was his mother who had passed away. For me, grief is a private thing. As well, I see death as a natural part of life and when one passes, I celebrate their life rather than mourn their death. Death itself is a very private thing and a natural part of life. My beliefs about death and grief have only contributed to how everyone sees me; I'm the odd one. Do I even have to say that others have made it their mission throughout my life to "fix me" by changing my views? My response to them remains the same: respect my beliefs as I respect yours.
2 years ago
I totally feel you. My grandpa is about to pass and I want to support my family, but for me, I want to be alone. My Grandpa and I were as close as two people could be, we have a special connection. I'm afraid of all of the family grieving coming up because I want to be there for others but I want my time to grieve alone which is how I process things. Thanks for sharing.
8 months ago
I hope you read this. You sound so much like. It is painful being an introvert.
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